Me with Bill Phillips and Ronan Gardiner
Men's Health Magazine just turned 25 years old, and we had a big party in Manhattan to celebrate. There were celebrities there, like Dr. Oz and Dr. Travis Stork and Dylan McDermott, Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, and Carter Oosterhouse. And there were incredibly talented and dedicated members of the team there, too, many of who have worked for the magazine for ages. But there was a moment when I looked around the room and realized I was probably the only one who had been there from the beginning.
Dylan McDermott, Rosario Dawson and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Twenty-five years ago I was 26 and just starting out my career in a serious way. Back then, Men's Health was a newsletter (eight pages, black-and-white, no ads) and had been published as a one-time special under the name of Prevention's Men's Health. (In fact, that issue featured a man holding a baby--RADICAL!--and that man and onetime baby were actually at the party!) I vividly remember the lunchtime conversations (because in those days, all the staff other than advertising was in Pennsylvania, and many of the top leaders ate lunch together). I remember the debates and disagreements.
The common wisdom was that "Men don't want to read about health." For all the advancement of women, it was still a world in which women took care of everyone and men rested comfortably on the throne, eating all sorts of man stuff and doing all sorts of man things. Over the years there have been tons of disagreements over who should take credit for the idea and the launch, as well as disagreements over who was really the original editor. But I'm going to give credit to someone who's not often mentioned: Bob Teufel.
Bob was the company's president at the time and really running the business day-to-day while my father was traveling the world trying to help people learn how to farm organically (in fact, he was killed on just such a trip only two years into the magazine's life). Bob's job was to manage the money and the creative talent and say yes or no. And eventually, someone (most likely Mark Bricklin, editor-in-chief of Prevention at the time) convinced Bob to say yes, and Men's Health the magazine was born...yes, 25 years ago.
I'd like to say it was an overnight success, but it wasn't. There were encouraging signs of potential success, but there were also a lot of starts and stops. It started ragingly awesome from a circulation/readership perspective, but advertising lagged. Advertisers weren't sure what to do with a magazine for men that focused on "health." Then, with a few changes, advertising started to take off, but circulation had to get a lot bigger to meet the advertisers need for "reach." By then, I was creative director, and my little contribution was working with an outside agency to develop a TV commercial ("THIS is a commercial for men...") that went on to bring in over a million new subscribers. A few years ago, I looked at the commercial again and now it seems so cheesy, but I remember almost everything about making it, including some lessons learned in budgeting that have stayed with me throughout my career. (The lesson? Good creative is worth it!)
Over the years people have come and gone and some have come and gone and come back again. As far as the editors go, Mike Lafavore really got things started, and later came Dave Zinczenko, who took it to the next level. And now there's Bill Phillips, who is truly an awesome guy and has been working for the magazine for over 10 years. On the publisher side, there have been too many to mention here, but right now Ronan Gardiner is scoring goal after goal and winning every game.
But here's something I learned early on and have again over and over in my career: No one person is indispensable--myself included. A magazine (or any business, for that matter) is a huge team effort. And when a team is happy and working well together, success is bound to follow. That's why I'm so thrilled that this year Men's Health is having one of its best years ever--and I can genuinely say the whole team is one of the best ever and they're happier than they've ever been. It's a truly wonderful feeling.
The success of Men's Health has spread around the world. We now have 40 editions in 57 countries! We have incredible partnerships with people around the globe, helping us help men improve their lives. We joke about the "secret sauce" being "sex and abs"--but that's just a piece of it. We genuinely, truly care about helping men become healthier and happier and helping them improve their lives. The "guys" at Men's Health (there are some women too!) are making the journey to being better men right along with our readers--and I can attest that the staff of Men's Health has some of the most awesome men I know.
But let's face it: sex and abs do still matter. I had a gorgeous woman pull me aside at the party and tell me "Thank you for teaching men how to be good at sex--lord knows they can use the help!" And there you have my little secret...the reason I personally love Men's Health is that we are helping men everywhere learn how to respect women and treat them better--in and out of the bedroom. As I said at our international meeting this year when I toasted all our success, "Here's to better sex for everyone!"
Congratulations, Men's Health, and thank you to anyone anywhere who has ever been a part of it--writers, designers, salespeople, editors, publishers, production specialists, financial experts, PR mavens, fact checkers, copy editors, research librarians, circulation and marketing professionals, newsstand folks, leaders, assistants, and even interns! Thanks to all the advertisers who realize that men actually do care about their health, and understand that a healthy happy life is the true measure of success. But most of all, thanks to the readers. Thanks to ALL the readers: the straight ones and the gay ones, the liberal ones and the conservative ones, the young ones and the not-so-young ones...and even the female ones. No matter what your religion, political beliefs, or nationality, we now know for sure that everyone around the world cares about living a healthier and happier life. And speaking on behalf of everyone at Rodale, we are proud to be a part of it.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com